Sunday, 25 September 2011

Parmesan and Herb Breaded Chicken

Not my usual style, I must admit, but I had some leftover breadcrumbs from making stuffed peppers and some chicken that needed eating, so I decided that breaded chicken was the way to go. I always forget that when homemade, breaded chicken is miles away from its KFC or supermarket freezer section counterparts, and makes for an impressive yet simple weeknight supper. Great too, as it can be made in advance and quickly grilled when you're ready to eat.

I served mine with Turkish-style rice pilaf and homemade garlic and paprika aioli, which worked beautifully. I'll definitely be making this again.

Ingredients (serves 4):
For the chicken
3 chicken breasts (about 450g)
1 Tbsp plain flour
50g Breadcrumbs
1 Tbsp grated Parmesan
½ Tsp dried mint
½ Tsp dried oregano
½ Tsp paprika
2 eggs

For the Turkish-style rice pilaf
100g basmati rice
50g orzo 
1 litre diluted chicken or vegetable stock 

Start by preparing the chicken: slice the breast acrossways so you have 3-4 pieces of chicken per breast. Dip each slice into the flour and coat evenly then set aside. Mix together the breadcrumbs, mint, oregano, paprika and parmesan and season with a little salt and pepper. In a shallow bowl, beat together the eggs. Make sure you have a clean plate ready to transfer your breaded chicken onto, then dunk each piece of chicken in the egg, making sure it is fully coated, then dip into the breadcrumb mixture, so that both sides are covered. Place each piece of breaded chicken on the clean plate, ready for grilling. 

At this stage, you can either keep them in the fridge for up to a day or freeze for another day - I would suggest individually wrapping each piece in cling film so you can take out the number you need without them sticking together. If you're going to cook them immediately, transfer the chicken onto a very lightly greased baking tray, making sure the chicken is laid flat and doesn't overlap. I had to cook mine in two batches as there wasn't room for all the chicken on one tray. 

Now for the rice - put the stock on to boil, and heat up a dry frying pan ready to toast the orzo. Once the pan is hot, add the orzo and toast for up to a minute. The pasta should change colour only very lightly. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. When the stock is boiling, add the rice and toasted orzo and boil for 11 minutes. When cooked, drain and serve.

While the rice is cooking, heat up the grill. Once hot, spray a little olive oil on the chicken so the breadcrumbs go nice and golden, and grill for 5 minutes each side, turning once. You might need to begin this stage a little earlier if, like me, your oven isn't big enough for all the chicken on one baking tray! Once your chicken and rice is cooked, transfer onto plates and serve with some delicious, garlicky aioli. Wonderful!

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Stuffed Peppers

This is a bit of a summer classic and as such this version takes its cues from many versions made across the Mediterannean - Italian Parmesan, Turkish-style rice, French anchovies... you get the idea. While they take a little time to prepare, they keep well, are delicious hot or cold and can easily be made in advance - perfect for entertaining or picnics!

Ingredients (Serves 4):
3 red peppers
1 courgette
1 leek
30g chestnut mushrooms
4 anchovy fillets
25g orzo
100g basmati rice
10g breadcrumbs
1 tbsp parmesan
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried mint

Preheat the oven to 180°C, then while it comes to temperature, prepare the filling for the peppers. Thinly slice the leek and then chop one of the peppers and the courgette into approx 1cm pieces. Stir in the cumin and mint and sauté over a medium heat until soft, then thinly slice the mushrooms and add to the pan alongside the roughly chopped anchovy fillets. Cook until the mushrooms are done then set aside until ready for the next step.

Meanwhile, put a pan of lightly salted water on to boil, lightly toast the orzo in a dry pan and cook the rice and orzo together until done - about 11 minutes. Drain the rice and add to the pan with the vegetables. Mix together, then re-cover while you prepare the remaining peppers.

Slice the peppers in half lengthways and take care to remove all the seeds and pith. Place each half pepper face-up on a baking tray and brush the insides with a little olive oil. Season with salt and pepper then spoon in the rice and vegetable mix, pressing it in so it is tightly packed.

Finally, mix together the parmesan and breadcrumbs and stir in a little more mint if you like, then sprinkle on top of the peppers to give a delicious, crispy crust.  Cover with foil and bake in the oven for 45 minutes. You will have some of the rice and vegetables left over after stuffing, so once the peppers are cooked, give it a quick blast of heat and serve alongside the peppers.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Turkish Red Lentil Soup (Kirmizi Mercimek Corbasi)

Hello! I'm back and fully refreshed after a wonderful trip to Turkey. The holiday itself was wonderful, filled with much amazing Turkish food, lots of relaxation and some very wonderful days out. I also return a newly engaged woman, as the other half rather foolishly asked if he could become Mr Crumbs For Dinner.

Inspiration often strikes in the place you most recently visited. In my case this trip to Turkey yielded many ideas to try, but this was the recipe I wanted to make the most. While I have eaten this soup before on many an occasion, being in Turkey for the end of Ramadan meant that it was more prevalent than usual as it is often one of the soups used to break the fast at the end of the day.

I roughly blended all my ingredients before finally adding the lentils to slowly cook for a slightly more rustic texture, but it's up to you how chunky or smooth you make it. I used chicken stock for this, but if you want to make the recipe vegetarian, subsitute for a good quality vegetable stock. A squeeze of fresh lemon juice when you're ready to eat makes the soup even more delicious.

Ingredients (serves 4):
125g red lentils
1 medium onion
2 small carrots
2 garlic cloves
1 small baking potato
1 tbsp tomato purée
1 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp dried mint
1 litre vegetable or chicken stock

Finely dice the carrot and onion, and, in a deep saucepan, slowly fry in a little olive oil until the onion is soft and translucent. Peel and roughly slice the garlic, then add to the pan with the cumin and mint and fry for a further couple of minutes. Peel and dice the potato into small chunks, then cook for a minute or so. Add the stock and simmer for 25 minutes to half an hour - until the carrot and potato is soft.

While the base of the soup is simmering, weigh out and rinse the lentils then set aside. When the base of the soup is cooked, allow to cool a little then, in batches, roughly blend and transfer back to the saucepan. Add the lentils and if it is very thick, a little extra water and simmer for up to an hour. 

When you're ready to eat, transfer the soup into bowls and serve with a wedge of lemon on the side. It is delicious with some fresh bread to mop up any remainders.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Recipes revisited: Baba Ghanoush

As I'm currently on holiday in Turkey, it feels fitting to end the Recipes Revisited series on one of my all-time favourite mezzes, Baba Ghanoush, or Moutabal as it is sometimes known.

I like hummous, but the moment I see Baba Ganoush any desire to eat the hummous goes out the window. It is absolutely delicious - filled with warm, earthy flavours from both the chargrilled aubergine and paprika. I like it served with nothing more than fresh rustic bread; be it ciabatta, Lebanese flatbreads or a really good sourdough.

2 medium aubergines
1 tbsp tahini paste
70ml boiling water
2 garlic cloves
1 tbsp coriander
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp olive oil and a drizzle at the end
1/2 tsp paprika
2 tsp pomegranate molasses
salt and pepper

If you have a gas hob, place the aubergines over an open flame and grill until charred, turning occasionally. This lends a wonderful smokey flavour to the aubergines. If you don't have a gas hob, you can also place the aubergines under a hot grill (pierce them first so they don't explode!) though this doesn't lend quite such a smokey flavour. 

Set the aubergines aside to cool, then slice in half and scoop out the flesh. Take care to avoid the charred skin. Roughly chop the aubergine then set aside to drain for about half an hour. 

In the meantime, prepare the rest of the dip: pour the boiling water into a bowl with a tablespoon of tahini paste and mix until the two ingredients form a paste. Crush in the garlic cloves and add the lemon juice, paprika and pomegranate molasses. 

Once the aubergine has drained, stir it into the tahini paste mix, finely chop the coriander and add that too, season with salt and pepper then taste. You might find it needs a little more lemon, salt or even pomegranate molasses. The Baba Ganoush should taste smokey, but not too dense.

Serve in a bowl and garnish with a drizzle of oil, a sprinkle of paprika and a sprig of coriander.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Recipes revisited: Mozzarella Stuffed Romano Peppers

Romano peppers confuse me. Some people call them ramiro, some romano, some romero. I don't know which version is correct, or even if they are the same thing, but I digress. This is one of my most googled for recipes, and it was originally one of my mum's creations. It is incredibly simple, and incredibly delicious. But aren't the simplest things usually the best? 

Ingredients (serves 2):
2 Romano Peppers 
60g fresh Mozzarella
Approx. 4 basil leaves per pepper
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Place the peppers under a hot grill for 10-15 minutes, turning occasionally. You want the skin to blacken in places, but not all over. Once sufficiently blackened, remove from the grill and set aside to cool. Meanwhile, turn the oven on to about 180°C. Once the peppers are cooled enough to handle, carefully make a slit from top to bottom, taking care not to slice through both sides. Open them out a little and, taking care not to tear the pepper, remove the seeds. 

Slice the Mozzarella into 5mm half moons - this will make it easier to fill the pepper than with full slices - and place inside the pepper. I found 4 half-moons filled my peppers. Then, tear the basil and scatter over the Mozzarella. Season with a little salt and pepper then drizzle with olive oil.

Bake in the oven for 5-10 minutes and then serve. I think these are lovely on their own as a starter, or served with various salads as a main.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Recipes revisited: Thai Red Salmon Curry

I cannot claim for one moment for this to be authentic, but it tastes pretty darn good! This was inspired by a trip down Leather Lane Market at lunchtime, so I decided to try my hand again at Thai. Being slightly health-conscious, I used half fat coconut milk instead of its full-fat cousin, but there's no reason why you can't go the full-fat route. 

It's a lovely, fresh-tasting meal, and quite substantial too, hence why I suggest this serves 4-6 people. I would advise getting everything prepared in advance as it's really quick to make - it's a lot down to timing and you should be able to put it together in the time the rice takes to boil. For alternatives to salmon, try it with king prawns or deep-fried tofu for a vegetarian option.

Ingredients (serves 4-6):
400g tinned Puy lentils, drained
1tbsp olive oil

200g green beans, topped and tailed

1 red pepper, deseeded and sliced into 5mm slices
4 salmon fillets, skinned and sliced
200g Thai red curry paste
400ml reduced fat coconut milk
1 bunch spring onions, thinly sliced
20g coriander, chopped
200g Thai jasmine rice

First, put the rice on to boil. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil to a heavy-bottomed saucepan then add the peppers and green beans and fry for a couple of minutes. Add the salmon and half the coriander and spring onions, then fry for a minute before stirring in the red Thai sauce for a further minute.

Next, add the coconut milk and Puy lentils and simmer for a further 5 minutes, until the salmon is cooked. Drain and fluff the rice, then serve with the curry spooned over the rice and scatter the remaining spring onions and coriander on top.